The last time the Birmingham Stallions and Memphis Showboats met on the field, Showboats coach Todd Haley went viral for an after-the-game exchange with his counterpart Skip Holtz: “You kicked our…We’ll remember it though!”
Now we know why Todd Haley said they’d remember this night: it could be the reason they don’t make the playoffs 😬
If they hadn’t gotten blown out by BHAM & then NOLA last week, they’d have a better point differential than NOLA or HOU entering week 10 😳pic.twitter.com/uJVL1XZXLc
Haley was referring to the Stallions’ 42-2 drubbing of the Showboats, including a sixth touchdown with less than two minutes remaining in the game.
In an ironic twist of fate, Haley was more correct than he probably realized. The Showboats will definitely remember that night in Birmingham eight weeks ago—and not just because they lost big. That night could be the reason they miss the USFL postseason in 2023.
LIVIN’ ON A PRAYER
After last week’s blowout loss to the New Orleans Breakers, the Showboats are now 5-4 and tied with the Houston Gamblers for last in the South Division. Technically, they are not eliminated from the playoffs just yet. But in order for their season to continue beyond this week, a lot has to happen in their favor. They need to win, and they need New Orleans to lose in order for three teams in the South to finish 6-4.
Then, they would need Michigan to win to avoid losing a tiebreaker to the Gamblers.
Lastly, they would need to win the point spread to advance over the Breakers and Gamblers. The only problem with that? They are currently 62 points behind the Breakers…
The 40-point loss to the Stallions in week two went a long way toward creating that deficit. Remove that game and last week’s 28-point loss, and the Showboats would be in the driver’s seat if it came down to point differential.
Here’s the most realistic scenario I can come up with in which MEM makes the playoffs:
Meanwhile, the Stallions have little to play for this week. A win secures them the number one seed in the South, but the game is already guaranteed to be played in Birmingham. Given that fact, it will be interesting to see how Coach Holtz approaches the game.
Yesterday, Holtz said that he will not be resting any of his starters—at least not at the beginning of the game. He said he told players to come see him if they needed the week off to heal up, but no one did.
Coach Holtz told the players if anyone needed a week off to come and see him.
Only two regular starters were inactivated before the game: wide receiver Adrian Hardy and cornerback Lorenzo Burns. Both appear to be a healthy scratch.
It will be interesting to see if Holtz decides to pull his starters at any point in the game. This Stallions team has been terribly injury prone, and the last thing the team wants is a season-ending injury right before the playoffs. However, as Holtz pointed out, you don’t want to get out of rhythm and lose your mojo a week before the biggest game of the year.
THE RETURN OF THE SHARKDAWG
The best news for the Stallions is they return their heart and soul on the defense this week: linebacker Scooby Wright. Wright was placed on Injured Reserve after week four but is now healed up and ready to go.
His return could not have come at a better time as two-time USFL Defensive Player of the Week linebacker Quentin Poling will be out this week.
Expect the SharkDawg to bring the juice on Saturday.
Regardless of the outcome of tomorrow’s game, the Memphis Showboats have a lot to be proud of for a franchise that did not exist a year ago. At FedEx founder Fred Smith’s prompting, the league decided to move the Tampa Bay Bandits to Memphis, and they are certainly glad they did. So far, the Showboats have the highest viewership of any team in the league.
The league has not announced any official attendance numbers, but it is likely if they did the Showboats would have had the highest attendance in the league. I expect a great crowd for Saturday’s final game at Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium where they will be giving away Showboats-themed spatulas.
It is clear the league has found something special in Memphis. The team has great local support from the fans, city, mayor, and local media. That includes a weekly radio show with coach Todd Haley, a pregame show, and play-by-play among other things.
It does not hurt either that the team has taken a step in the right direction. After finishing 4-6 last year as the Bandits, the Showboats are guaranteed to finish with a better record this year. At best, they will have a winning record, and at worst, they will finish at .500 (and with one of the four best records in the league). The fact that they started 0-3 but went on a five-game winning streak to save their season and stay in playoff contention until week 10 is impressive and speaks volumes to the job Coach Haley has done. If there were no divisions in the USFL, the Showboats would be a playoff team, hands down.
All that to say, I believe the best is yet to come for the Memphis Showboats. Season tickets for 2024 are on sale now.
But they have not started to think about next season quite yet. They will look to avenge their earlier loss to the reigning champs and finish this season on a high note on Saturday.
TIME AND BROADCAST
The game will kickoff at Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium at 4 pm EST. The game will be broadcast live on FOX. Make sure you tune in for a great regular-season finale between these two teams.
What are your thoughts on this upcoming matchup between the Birmingham Stallions and Memphis Showboats? Which USFL players will impress? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!